By D. Mark Mitchell
Senior place kicker Tyler Sellers decided to practice his field goals before anyone entered Bulldog Stadium last Friday night. Sellers practiced kicking on the north end of the field, having no idea he would be back at that same spot later to attempt a game-winning field goal from 32 yards away.
Tyler Sellers made a game winning 32-yard field goal as time expired to give Opelika a 20-19 victory over previously unbeaten Wetumpka in front of a rowdy crowd at Bulldog Stadium.
The field goal capped off an incredible drive that started at the Indians 4-yard line with 3:09 left. Quarterback Cade Blackmon managed to move the Bulldogs down the field with a good mix of run and pass plays. Sellers kicked the game-winning field goal with three seconds left.
Opelika used all three phases of the game to beat Wetumpka. The Bulldog defense was stingy, allowing 260 total yards and 19 points, 22 points shy of their regular points-per-game average. The Opelika offense gained 303 total yards.
Offensively, Blackmon finished the night 16-of-26 for 130 yards and two interceptions. Malik Wilson rushed 23 times for 125 yards and added three receptions for 46 yards.
Jaylen Stinson led the defense with 15 tackles, blocked an extra point and returned a kick 40 yards.
Opelika’s head football coach Caleb Ross said he was pleased with his team’s upset victory.
“Wow, I can’t say enough about this team. The kids were dialed in and focused all day,” Ross said.
“I could see it during pregame warmups. We believed we could win the game if we played 48 minutes. I liked our defensive and offensive game plans … we executed and made something good happen. It’s a great night to be an Opelika Bulldog.”
OPELIKA HOSTS PELHAM FOR
OHS will host Pelham in the final regular season game Friday night at Bulldog Stadium. Seniors from the team, band and cheerleading group will be recognized pregame.
Pelham (4-3 overall, 2-3 in region) travels to Opelika for the first time in history. The Dawgs lead the series 2-0, including Opelika’s 35-17 victory last year. The Panthers are coached by Tom Causey, who is 7-15 in two seasons.
This season, Pelham has scored 235 points and allowed 261. The Panthers beat Mortimer Jordan 30-15, Helena 29-25, Chelsea 36-23 and Chilton County 55-28. The three losses came against Benjamin Russell 35-28, Homewood 29-22 and Wetumpka 55-14.
Opelika needs to continue to improve and play as a team. Because of injuries, the Bulldogs have not played with all starters since the first game. Brantan Barnett, Blake Landers and Jamius Pressley appear to be lost for the season. Hank Brown can play if necessary. Otherwise, the injured senior center will be watching from the sidelines.
If we play with the intensity and effort we displayed against Wetumpka, the Bulldogs will finish 7-3 heading into an open week then start their playoff run. If we do not play hard or take Pelham lightly, it could cost us.
I look for the Bulldogs to keep playing at a high level and beat Pelham for the third-straight game.
The region championship is still up for grabs. Currently, Opelika, Benjamin Russell, and Wetumpka all have one loss in the region. Wetumpka travels to Benjamin Russell Friday for a huge region game.
The following is a breakdown of possible region winner scenarios:
If Opelika beats Pelham and Benjamin Russell beats Wetumpka, Opelika will finish second behind the Wildcats. If Wetumpka beats Benjamin Russell and Opelika beats Pelham, there will have a three-way tie for first place in the region.
The three-way tiebreaker as governed by the AHSAA can be confusing. It appears Opelika can finish second or third in the region, depending on the outcome of Friday’s game. We have an outside shot at being region champions.
The top-two teams in the region will host first-round playoff games while the third and fourth-place teams travel.
Opelika fans can listen to Opelika Bulldog football games each week on WKKR 97.7 Kicker fm, online at kickerfm.com and on the i-Heart Radio app on your smart phone.
The Coach Ross pregame show begins at 6:30 pm, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
OPELIKA MIDDLE SCHOOL TEAMS SPLIT WITH
The OMS seventh and eighth-grade football teams split with Wetumpka last week.
The seventh-grade team lost 16-14. Quarterback Caleb Chisum threw two touchdown passes to Davion Johnson. Kaden Cooper scored the lone two-point conversion.
The eighth-grade team remained undefeated with a 27-21 win over the Indians. Jarell Stinson led his team with 180 rushing yards, 60 yards passing and four touchdowns. Quarterback Jackson Bates was 10-of-11 for 153 yards.
Both teams travel to take on Auburn Friday. The seventh-grade game starts at 5 p.m.,with the eighth-grade game to follow.
The OHS Volleyball team improved to 10-9 after beating Tallassee 3-0. Mattrice Harris led the Lady Bulldogs with 13 kills, Imani Debrow added 9 kills and Claire Worth earned 26 assists.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.